First draft jan 2019.
I took a little break because Christmas, and because I have blogged all the caps I have reproduced. After this, I will go on to describe other caps I’ve seen, but I haven’t sewn these yet. I’ll add repro notes, if I sew them, later.
These two caps, from the Smithsonian, # 6608-A and # 6700-B, looked so similar to me that I have always thought of them as sisters. They were accessioned close together, too, part of the Copp Collection. Maybe they were acquired side-by-side by the original collector, big sister, little sister, from the same family?
The cap is housed in the textiles collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.* The record for these items are not online.
Both of these caps are constructed in the typical three-piece pattern of an 18th C lappet. a semicircular caul, gathered at the base with a string and at the CF with whipped gathers; a skinny headpiece with lappets; and a ruffle, gathered at the point of the lappet. These ruffles go all the way around the cap, across the nape of the neck, and back up the other side. 6608-A has an added 1/4″ lace that stops 3 3/4 ” behind the lappet. Reinforcements at the tips stabilize linen tape, 3-4″ long, to tie them on.
Now for the little differences. 6608-A, Big Sister, is larger overall. The caul is 8″ on a side, by 7 1/4″ tall. The headpiece is 1 7/8 ‘ at the tip, and 10 1/2″ from CF to tip. The ruffle is 1″ wide all around. This one has the lace. The museum date is 1775-1799. It is very fine mull. The stitches are super fine: the join of the ruffle and the headpiece are two minutely hemmed pieces butted together, and the finished seam is 1/16″ across. That kind of precision boggles my mind.
Little Sister, 6700-B, is smaller overall. The caul here is 6 1/2″ on a side, and 6 1/2″ tall. The headpiece is 1 1/4″ wide, and 10″ tip to CF. The ruffle starts out at 1 1/4″ at the CF, and is down to 7/8″ by the time it gets to the nape. I’ve seen this in other caps, and I can’t tell if it’s imprecision or a deliberate choice. Little Sister isn’t quite as good a seamstress; her stitches aren’t quite as fine. Her ruffle is gathered, just a little, all down the front. The headpiece is hemmed all around 1/8″, and the front of the ruffle finishes in a 1/4 hem. The cloth is a loose weave The string ties come out at the back, whereas as Big Sister’s come out at the front point of connection between caul and headpiece. No lace for you, Little Sister. Maybe when you are older, and your stitches are as fine as your sibling. Museum date: 1790-1810.
Questions that remain
I wish I could ask the curator what made them give the differing dates. I would account for the difference in dating from the larger hems and looser weave of Little Sister’s cap, if I had to give reasons. I wonder if other people have ideas about this?
Mrs. Galloway wears a cap with lappets and little or no gathers around her face, tied with string under her chin. Is her ruffle doubled? You can just make out a wide white ribbon, but no bows or furls. See how you can see her ear?
Click here for notes for 6608-A: smiths 6608 a notes
Click here for notes for 6700-B: smiths 6700 b notes
Thank Yous and Permissions
Nancy Davis, Curator of Textiles at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, helped me to identify items in that collection that were useful to this study. That was no small feat, as records were spread across several legacy cataloging systems, and details were minimal. I can only hope I found what there was to find!
Photos by the author.
Other Related Scholarship
I am not aware of any other scholarship on these caps.
*. . . which is not the same thing as the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt, in NYC. Their textiles section was under construction at the time of this study, so I didn’t get to see their artifacts.